Some say that in the final days of your life the one thing that will matter most to you is your family. That recently had me reflecting on what a true family is and what it looks like. I don’t have a large biological family. In fact, like most of you reading this article, my biological family is fairly dysfunctional.
As I scroll through my list of Facebook “friends” I tried to capture how I know each person and what part of my family they fall into. Some folks I’ve known a long time, some a short time, and some for a good time (i.e. funny memes). Some people I’ve never even met in person, but we share a common thread in life, and have connected through a virtual web. I receive friend requests from complete strangers and also from people I haven’t talked to in a long time. I tend to believe, and have found it to be true, that every person comes into your life for a reason and a season.
As I reflected on these thoughts for this article, the one glaring truth to all of this is that I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a great family. My drag racing family has been an absolute blessing to my life and I’m amazed by how we all come together in times of need. A friend that I recently met had a major medical episode that hospitalized him. I was reminded of the frailty of life and I was also amazed by the outpouring of support from friends and family. He is currently recovering and I must believe that all the prayers and supportive words have had power in this turn around.
Most of you know that this has been an incredibly challenging year for the No Mercy Nitro Funny Car as we made some unforeseen changes at the start of the year. As it is, we are attempting to do something that is incredibly difficult and we have struggled to find the success we are searching for. Some “friends” probably look for us to fail, as sometimes that is the natural reaction when you see someone attempting something as challenging as this. Ultimately, far more have supported and encouraged us through this difficult time. I am amazed by the words of persistence and perseverance that came from some of the most unlikely places. A simple, “Don’t quit, you can do it” text from Tim Wilkerson, supportive words from Jeff Arend, Robert Hight, John Keigley, Robert Schwab, Chad Head, Chris Nance, John Hale, Bobby Cottrell, Brandon Welch, Brian & Ron Hope, and so many more. I hate to leave other names out because there are many of you that continue to offer encouraging words. Many people that I served with in the military wrote to remind me that since they’ve known me that this has been my dream, and to never quite. Understanding sponsors never pressure us to perform and continue to stand next to us as we make difficult decisions. Crewmembers, past and current, continue to refer me to our team mantra that supports our dream; persistence, perseverance, NO MERCY!
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. Much is the case with what we are currently accomplishing. For some, the fact that we’ve managed to put together a complete ready to run pro NHRA nitro funny car, is a goal achieved. For others, making a handful of runs down the strip, is a goal accomplished. Maybe once I’ve achieved the license upgrade notch, the goal will be accomplished. Or possibly, qualifying for the first national event will be the pinnacle of this journey. This dream is quite elusive as the goal post will continue to move further and further away the closer we get, much like it should. There’s a reason that John Force continues to pound the pavement every weekend.
Every race, event, show, or racing get together is a family reunion of sorts as the drag racing family from around the world comes together in one location. It is incredibly warming to reunite with racing friends from around the world and catchup on everything we missed. Even though I grew up in a racing family in the U.S., my racing career started in England. Even though I didn’t know a single person in that country, the fact that I built a car and took it to a dragstrip immediately made me a part of a family. I was adopted into their family and given a name, WB17. It’s always a pleasure to see those great folks when they cross the pond to attend a race in the US.
Going to a race track is always something I look forward to as I know that I will see someone that I know. We may not always agree on politics, global warming, or whether a Prius deserves to be in the fast lane, but I know at the end of the day we agree on one thing; Drag Racing. We share a common bond and we are friends. A friendly face in a sea of disgruntled angry people.
Who are your heroes? When I was a young red-headed, buck toothed, pale skinned kid riding my Huffy (couldn’t afford a GT) bike around the pits of Orange County, Riverside, Irwindale, Carlsbad, Palmdale, Pomona, etc., my heroes were The Snake, John Force, Brad Anderson, Rod Hynes, Chuck Beal, Kenny Bernstein, Ray Higley, and many many more. One person rose well above all of them as the best drag racer in the world and that was my dad, Jeff Bennett. In my mind, there wasn’t anybody else out there as talented as him, somebody just needed to give him a chance.
It makes me incredibly proud that all of these years later I’ve been able to carry on his heritage and dream while doing it with him right next to me. I used to always think that if I could be as half as good of a driver as him, I’d be pretty damn good. My dad is my best friend and we have built a special bond that was forged over a monstrous hemi in the garage.
Folks, whomever your hero is, they are not getting any younger, which is why you need to take the time to be around them. Every year, the drag racing GREATS are making their final pass. Take the opportunity to support events that bring out the drag racing GREATS such as Steve Gibbs’ Nitro Revival at Barona Dragstrip on September 30th (http://nitrorevival.com/).
The main purpose of writing this is to tell you THANK YOU. If you’ve made it to the end of this diatribe, then I thank you for your friendship and support. Maybe we’ve only known each other a short time, but just by reading the words that I’ve put to print, I thank you. Your friendship is dear and sweet to me and I’m grateful to know you my friend. Welcome to my family!